“The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word” began the only survivor of the scuba diving team. These words covered nearly half of the front page of a very popular newspaper, back in the Spring of 2000. I remember being endlessly interrogated by a group of reporters, soon after I was discharged from hospital, in Brazil. There was a rush around, amidst the din, I could make out voices, fumbling for my attention. There was one question that, they kept poking me with “Ma’am… how did it happen? Ma’am…please tell us…Ma’am…look at the camera, please…Ma’am…to your left, please…Ma’am…how did the mishap take place? …Ma’am…was it an accident? …” these words still ring in my ears, while my eyes take a dip into the dense turquoise of the sea. It was a bright day, we were rowing, rather being rowed, through the brackish waters of the South American Country, known for its Carnivalesque Carnival.
While I was busy looking for birds of various species through my binoculars, the boatman said “ scuba diving, is very famous here, we have got a lot of lives wriggling around, underwater …tourists go for scuba diving, every time they visit Brazil, won’t you like to be a part of the team?” Scuba diving! Really? As a kid, I was advised by my astrologist to stay away from water, as water would bring ill fate. Being a non-existential soul, I had never tried, experimenting with water again. I, cordially refused, saying “I am not that brave”. This brought a big smile on the boat man’s face. With wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, the man replied mirthfully “why afraid lady? We are there… we will help you people”. Before I could refuse again, my partner had begun his speech “thank you so much, old man, we would love to go to the under-water trip, it would be an adventure in real sense. Do not be so fearful my dear…” as he went on, none of my attempts to hush him attained success.
And finally, we were changing to the given diving suits, I was trying my best to convince my mind, nothing wrong was going to happen, relax, it’s okay… “Ready guys!” came the voice of the boatman, “Y – ye -e-s—s” I tried to sound normal, making everybody laugh. My partner gave a tight hug, still laughing and comforting me with his words. Finally, it was time to plunge into the perpetual waves. I had shut my eyes tight and tensed every sense of mine and leaped into the air, coming down with a giant splash. I had not opened my eyes until my legs touched a coral. I opened my eyes, gradually to find a small colorful fish swimming away from me.
“Kingfisher of the Under waters,” my mind said, making situations light. But where was he? I got tensed again, looking around, I found him cuddling a big, ridiculously flatfish, just like a master cuddling his pet dog.
We got to see, different varieties of fishes and marine creatures. I loved the transparent jellyfishes; they took me back to the Islands of Andaman and Nicobar. While, diving there, a few years ago, my youngest cousin had said “Didi! Let us take some bread under the sea so that we can have them ‘jelly’ fishes.” The memories of that trip made me brave, and I began to swim around, touching oysters, shells, corals, anemones and other deepsea creatures. Assigning them names and designating them positions in the vast world of my imagination. For instance, the oyster would be the ‘authentic jeweler’, the corals would be ‘celebrity designers’ anemones would be the ‘chimneys of houses’ letting out puffs of bubbles.
And, I would be the ‘mermaid’ sleeping in a cushiony oyster bed… with this long, designed, cylindrical thing as my side pillow… oh! It’s soft and it moves!
I was gliding through the world of my imaginations, when I realized, he was not by my side anymore. Keeping my imagination aside, I started looking for him, only to find him leaning and observing the long, cylindrical, designed side pillow of my imagination. It was long in reality! I kept poking it, as I was swimming beside it. While I was busy with it, I realized, something is wrong with my partner, why is he moving his limbs so helplessly? Is he trying to call me? Why is my side pillow following him? To my horrors, I realized, it was a giant green
Anaconda! With emerald eyes! Shinning like a demon’s grin in the Prussian blue depths of the mangrove. I had disturbed it, but poking it continuously and my partner had tried to capture a few shots of it. Outraged by our activities, it rose like a rusted shackle of some old, sunken ship and began wrapping around him. I began to scream at him, asking him to try and free himself and swim-up, not realizing, I cannot speak underwater. My words in the form of bubbles grew and burst instantly, adding to the helplessness of the situation…I do not remember anything more.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in a boat, without him by my side. I tried to get up immediately, but I felt strangulated. After coughing and throwing up the brackish water from me, I was able to sit up. My head felt heavy and my soul nauseated, from the stink of the brackish mangrove water. I could not speak properly for a day, all my words sounded like the babble of a child, and in my somnambulant state, I kept calling him by his name. I kept asking him to help me get up, nothing but silence kept resonating.
After gaining consciousness, at this hospital, the Doctors told me I was unconscious for a couple of days. I had to spend a month in that hospital, to come out of the trauma. As soon as I closed my eyes, that rusted, shackle-like giant would appear from the perpetual darkness. It seemed to be the guardian of the Hall of Hades, and not the side pillow, on my oyster bed. During, the month that I had spent in that Brazilian hospital, I would stare at the blank and think of the day, on which, we had planned this trip. Sitting in the comfort of our warm room, we were playing a game – ‘ATLAS’. In which, each of the players would have to name a geographical location that would begin with the last alphabet of the name of the location, that the previous players had mentioned, starting with the end letter of the word –
ATLAS, that is ‘S’.
“Sydney” I had said, “Yokohama” he had replied “Afghanistan” … “Netherlands” … “San Francisco” … the game went on, for a long time, then he sprang up saying “Brazil!”. “But that does not match and you are out of the game…” before I could complete my sentence, he said “leave the silly game, let’s go to Brazil, this Spring, we would have a lovely time in the Carnival…start packing from now!” the zeal in his tone, was enough to kindle the adventurous spirit in me. Both of us were bubbling with vim and zest. And in a blink, we were on our flight to Brazil… Unable to hold back anymore, the woman had burst into tears. Making me sob, for a while, I could empathize with her. She had lost her lover to the giant green Anaconda, this species is considered to be the largest when it comes to size. They grow about Twenty-three feet in length and weigh more than Two hundred Kilos.
Wiping her tears, the once, rosy-cheeked woman began again, “The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word” stopping to sob “Brazil!” sobbing again, continued the old lady “Later, I came to know, that his body was crushed by the giant anaconda, as it kept on wrapping him and squeezing him to death. After straining him of all his blood the giant had swallowed him entirely. The next day they found his body, covered in the digestive juices and the toxic saliva of the heathen creature. That thing was probably unable to digest him, thus, it threw up his corpse.” Breaking to cough “the giant was nowhere around…” she broke into tears again. Offering her a glass of water, I tried to comfort her with a few words, but she was heartbroken. She kept repeating “The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word.”
He was so excited about this journey, he had said: “it is going to be a fairy tale adventure with you…”
The alarm clock rang out loud, commanding the execution of my dream. As I got up stretching myself, I could hear my man’s voice “let’s go honey”, “where?” I asked. To my horrors, “Scuba diving” came the reply. “An adventure to the Hall of Hades, it would be…cause we are going underwater, closer to the underworld (he laughed)…remove your amulet before plunging in…you might lose it” I could help but gape at him while noticing a strange shimmer on the silver amulet on my left wrist. The amulet was given to me by my Granny, who has whispered, at her death bed “the lines on your left palm show some kind of danger from water, this amulet is going to save you from all such dangers…never remove it from your body, my love…”. We had landed in Brazil, the last night, for a vacation, and the strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word – ‘Brazil!’ he had shouted, while, we were playing ‘ATLAS’…
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